First, at the Lookout Mountain Aid Station at last weekend’s Grindstone 100 Mile and then this Wednesday at a local middle-school cross-country race here in Charlottesville, Virginia I had the distinct privilege of watching people do what I love to do. It was a singular gift.
And, while the distances and experiences were vastly different, what struck me as remarkably similar was the importance of attitude and mindset in the runners and the impact that had on the eventual outcome.
Those of us who’ve been around running for any length of time know that often what is between the ears is every bit as important as what’s on the ground. And certainly, at mile 72 of a 100-mile race, all kinds of suffering is taking place. Feet are throbbing, quads are seizing, and stomachs are rumbling. Yet for those with a sunny disposition, it is often possible to push through and come out the other side more or less unscathed.
The same is true, I daresay, for young cross-country runners pushing the edge of their abilities against their peers and the clock. Even though the distance is often less than two miles in total, the suffering is uniquely deep. As the taste of blood seeps into your mouth and your leg muscles become flooded with lactic acid, you often want nothing more than to stop, sit down, and re-group.
And yet the best of us do not. The best of us take what the day has handed us and forge on. We summon the strength and endurance from every reserve available to us and try, often desperately, to keep moving forward. And if our minds are working and our attitude is trending upward, even in the midst of extraordinary pain, we typically make ourselves think we are okay until we are, indeed, alright. I saw it in action last week and I look forward to seeing it in action for years to come. For it is the struggle in the face of adversity, the sheer fact that we are doing this in the first place, that ultimately makes it all worthwhile in the end.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- When was the last time that everything went to pieces in a race or long run except for your good attitude, which got you through with plenty of time and energy to spare?
- Do you ever ‘fake it until you make it?’ As in, do you ever pretend you’re happy when, suddenly, at some point you actually do feel good again? In running? In somewhere else in life?